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Have you ever visited the Shankar’s International Dolls Museum in Delhi?  If your answer is no, then you must visit it; especially if you are towing kids around.   Kids will love it and you will not disapprove of it either.  Why, because it is one of the best dolls museums in the world.  Hereis  a small introduction into this amazing dolls-only museum.

Dolls and their makeover since ancient times

Dolls are miniature representation of human beings and the things around us. Children have always used them as toys for playing. These dolls have also been used for black magic and religious activities.

The earliest dolls were made of natural materials such as clay, wood and feathers.  At present, unfortunately, they are mass-produced using plastic, porcelain or cloth.


Shankar’s International Dolls Museum

Shankar’s International Dolls Museum is a collection of dolls from all over the world in a 5,184 sq ft area at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, New Delhi.  It is dream of one persons’ fascination with dolls and a desire to show little kids the variety of dolls available around the world.

History of this unique museum

K.Shankar Pillai is considered the father of Indian Political cartooning.  He once received an ethnic doll gift from a Hungarian diplomat. This created in him a life-long fascination for collecting and exhibiting dolls.

With a sizeable collection of dolls he started holding exhibitions for children.  One such exhibition had Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi as guests.  Indira Gandhi was so impressed with the idea that she helped the cartoonist set up the now-famous Shankar’s International Dolls Museum in Delhi.

A small glimpse at the extensive collection in Delhi

At the time of inauguration by Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, the president of India, in 1965 the total count was only 500.  Now the count has increased to 6500 exhibits sourced from more than 85 countries! Most dolls in the 160 glass cases here are made from clay, feathers, leather, straw, cloth wood and/or bone.

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The doll exhibit collection has two main sections.  One section displays dolls from Asian and Africa countries.  Another section has dolls from Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States.

There are more than 500 Indian dolls in this exhibition. Among them are some 150 types of Indian costume dolls. These dolls have perfectly chiseled and life-like features, crafted after meticulous research and planning by the Museum’s own workshop team.

You can have glimpses of Indian traditions and culture in this collection.  One series in this set shows how to wear a sari.  Another series has boy and girl dolls from different regions of India wearing their traditional bridal attire.  Some dolls represent the various dance forms of India.

Do not miss the Glass case that has Mahatma Gandhi doll leading a massive Salt Sathyagraha rally. Check out the Tribal dolls like a Bhil tribal dolls from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan Puppet dolls, Kerala festival series dolls and other dolls representing everyday life from diverse regions of our country.

Eskimo dolls photo

Photo by Freddycat1

The collection from other countries include a 2nd  century old doll from Switzerland, Dolls based on the Ramayana from Thailand, Festival dolls of Japan, UK Replica Dolls of the Queen’s collection, Samurai dolls from Japan, Kanda Pehara from Sri Lanka, Flamenco dancer dolls from Spain, Eskimo dolls made of seal skins and African dolls made of wood and feathers. In another area you will find Russian dolls called Matryoshka dolls.  These amazing dolls are similarly-made 5 to 6 dolls that decrease in size in such a way that one doll can be placed inside another with ease.

How the collection grew?

When you have the Prime minister of India as a patron, then there is no surprise that the collections will grow in leaps and bounds. Three prime ministers – Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi have actively contributed dolls from their own world-wide collections to this museum.

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Diplomats and international dignitaries like the Queen of Thailand, Family members of Shah of Iran, Mexico and Indonesian President Wives, The Greek queen Fredika and Madam Tito have also played part in the expansion of Shankar’s International Dolls Museum.  The in-house workshop has added to this collection by making new Indian dolls and exchanging it with ethnic dolls from foreign embassies.

Awards won by this museum

This dolls museum is the recipient of the Golden Peacock Feather at the Dolls Biennale held at Carcow in Poland in the year 1980.

Other attractions in the same building

There are two more attractions in the same building which you can check out.

  1. Children’s book trust

This organization was set up in 1965 to promote well themed Children’s books at affordable rates.  You can check out their collection or participate in the workshops and competitions that are held on regular basis here.

  1. Clinic for sick dolls

If you or your kids are the owners of rare dolls that need fixing, visit the Clinic for Sick Dolls in the same premises.

Shankar’s International Doll Museum is open on all days except Monday’s and Government holidays between 10.00 am to 6 p.m.

Shankar’s International Doll Museum

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